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Arts & Life

Will You Join the Cleaner Plate Club?


A local mom and food writer shares her advice and recipes for getting more 'real food' on a family dinner table. Plus, information about healthy snacking, winter cooking, and what makes our city a mecca for fabulous local ingredients.By Central Standard

What is the secret to filling the home and family meals with whole foods, thus shaping children's familiarities and environments with healthy choices?

The book The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal At a Time, by authors/moms Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin provides other moms with tricks to substituting ingredients and making healthy alternatives to the classic kid dishes that fill the menu of school cafeterias nation wide.

Co-author Beth Bader enlightened our listeners on how to get the family to eat healthy in a world full of social influences and fast food.

Here are some of their recipes:

Grapefruit-Mint Salad

If you are just getting the winter blues, this salad will make you feel a bit like spring. Using high tunnels, local farms in Kansas City are known to savvy locavores as a source of fresh baby greens as late in the season as December, and as early as March. The salad uses citrus, which is seasonal in winter and one of the fruits that we just can't grow in the Midwest. For added local touches, use local honey and grow the mint, or even the lettuces, yourself in a windowsill.

2 Ruby Grapefruits, sectioned

1 tbs. mint, chiffonade or chopped

3 cups greens, spring mix or mache


Juice of 1 lemon, plus zest

2 tbs. champagne vinegar

4 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. honey

salt and pepper to taste

Divide salad ingredients among four plates. Whisk dressing ingredients together. Drizzle the greens with dressing.


Pumpkin-White Cheddar Soup

Pumpkins bought at the end of the farmers market season in October can be stored for months and used for a hearty winter soup from local ingredients.

5 cups cooked pumpkin, pureed in food processor

2 tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 cup carrot, diced small

2 tbs. chopped sage

1 tsp. chopped thyme

4 tbs. flour

32 oz. chicken broth (or vegetable)

3 and 1/2 cups milk

1 cup apple cider

12 oz. white cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

To prepare the pumpkin, wash, cut in half and scrape out the seeds and pulpy stuff. Lightly oil skin and place on a baking sheet, cut side down. Your oven rack will need to be low to fit the halves of pumpkin!

Bake for about an hour, until the sides of the pumpkin give easily when pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Scrape flesh from skin into measuring cup, (you need five cups). Puree in food processor until smooth. Any extra pumpkin puree can be pureed and stored in a baggie and frozen for future use. Store individual cup amounts or in 15 oz. portions to be equal to a can of pumpkin puree. Use pumpkin with very thick, orange flesh as opposed to a carving pumpkin with thinner, whitish, bitter flesh. You can also use canned pumpkin if that is more convenient.

Soup: Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions and carrots and sage and thyme. Sweat the veggies on medium-low heat to release flavor and soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the flour and stir to coat the veggies and cook the flour for a couple minutes. Add the stock and the cider and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally to let the soup thicken a bit, 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin and stir, bringing back to a simmer. Add the milk, carefully bringing the soup back to a simmer.

Last, add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring as you go to melt it in completely. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Can be served with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche. Or even a bit of the shredded white cheddar.

Meatloaf Florentine

This one is the absolute favorite meat dish at Beth's house. It was the first meat dish she could get her daughter to eat, and one they all love. It makes great sandwiches the next day, and it's good enough for company.

While many people think only produce when they think about buying local, items such as meats, eggs and dairy can be bought locally from farmers who practice more sustainable methods, raise healthier animals who are fed a natural diet and not subjected to factory farming methods.

3 lbs. ground meat (Any combination of beef, turkey, buffalo, or pork. Use very lean meats and use the olive oil and veggies for the moisture instead of fat).

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

6 oz roasted tomatoes (or sun-dried packed in olive oil) with the olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach

1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (mostly basil, plus some rosemary, thyme and sage)

2 eggs

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (not the stuff in the green can, okay?)

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

4 tbs. ketchup

Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

Saut? onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and light golden. Mix all ingredients together and divide in half. Place in two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 60 minutes, make sure a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 180 degrees Farenheit.

Makes two loaves. Or, you can make one loaf and shape the other half of the meat mixture into meatballs. Bake the meatballs on a baking sheet, for about 10-15 minutes, checking for done temperature. The meatballs can be added to spaghetti, or even cooled and frozen for use in quick meals during the week.

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